Here's the excellent reply:
"Dear Ms. Hocking,
"I've gotten several questions about "The Weaver" in the last few years and this is what I have found in my research.
"As it turns out, there are many poems by many authors called "The Weaver," so I was not entirely certain which one you mean. When I did a general Internet search, however, I found one poem credited to Corrie Ten Boom, Grant Colfax Tullar, and Benjamin Malachi Franklin which begins:
"My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
"So, I assume this is the poem you would like to know about. There are claims about several authors having written the poem.
I can rule out Corrie Ten Boom as there are a number of references to the fact that she read this poem by Tullar and then often recited it or quoted from it in her speeches giving him credit. You can find one such reference at http://www.elisabethelliot.org/newsletters/march-april-98.pdf by someone who heard her speak.
"I found the claim by Bob Corley about his grandfather Benjamin Malachi Franklin to be confusing. He states that his grandfather wrote the poem in the 1940s and that it was published in 1950 in The Memphis Commercial Appeal Newspaper. Mr. Corley says it was copyrighted in 2006, but I did not find anything by Franklin in the Copyright online catalog. There is nothing like this poem under the name Bob Corley and there are many different Robert Corleys, again with nothing like this poem. When I search by the title "The Weaver" I find dozens of items. And the registration number Mr. Corley provides seems to have too many digits.
"Searching by title is also problematic because I have found this poem on the Internet under a wide variety of titles including:
My Life is But a Weaving
Master Weaver's Plan
Upper and Under Side
"You can search the Copyright catalog yourself at http://cocatalog.loc.gov, but I do not know if this will prove useful. The online catalog only goes back as far as 1978. You can have a search done by the Copyright Office of older card files, but a fee is charged. I also found many older examples of this poem published considerably before the 1940s.
"I then used Google Books http://books.google.com and the HathiTrust http://www.hathitrust.org as both these sites have many digitized books and some periodicals freely available full-text prior to 1923. The following citations come from The HathiTrust.
"The earliest citation I found was from:
"British Books in Print, 1910, volume 2 from something called "Bagster's Quotation Cards." Just the first part of the poem was given and listed as anonymous for the author.
"The Pacific" Vol. LXV, No. 42, October 20, 1915, page 81 also listed it as anonymous.
"Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's Magazine," Volume 59, 1915, page 123 and again no author is provided.
"The Woman's Label League Journal," September 1919, p. 14 listed Rev. John Tabb. "The Holy Cross Purple, " Vol. 33, October 1920-June 1921, p. 452 also listed Father Tabb with an article about his poetry.
"So John Banister (sometimes misspelled Bannister) Tabb, 1845-1909 is credited fairly early with this poem. Unfortunately, I have not found a specific date to tie together Grant Colfax Tullar, 1869-1950, to this poem and can not search all of his published works. You can get brief information on him from the Bolton (Connecticut) Historical Society at http://www.boltoncthistory.org/granttullar.html.
"Recognizing that poetry was often printed in newspapers, I then turned to the Chronicling America website available at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov where newspapers from 1836-1922 from across the United States are freely available. If you use the "advanced search" and search on the phrase "my life is but a weaving," you'll find the July 27, 1892 Somerset Herald from Somerset, Pennsylvania providing this poem with the author given as Florence May Alt. The poem credited to Alt also appeared in the Shenandoah (Virginia) Herald in 1892.
"I also did the same search in two subscription databases. I have attached a copy of the poem from "The American Farmer" as it appeared in August of 1892 with Alt as the author. The earliest copy I found citing Alt was from the Troy Weekly Times, Volume XXXVI, issue 42, page 6 from May 19, 1892.
"So, the potential authorship is between Alt, Tabb, and Tullar. I can pin an 1892 date to Alt. Tabb's first published collection of poetry was in 1894 and the poem does not appear in it. He could, of course, have written the poem earlier and it might have appeared somewhere other than a book of published poetry. I didn't find it in print until 1919, but there is no way to do a comprehensive search of all places the poem could have been published. Similarly, I have no date to tie the poem to Tullar.
"Amusingly, there are questions that appeared in the 1930s in the "Notes and Queries" column in the New York Times asking who the author of the poem is. No answer is provided!
"Without examining everything ever written by these three individuals, it is impossible for me to say for certain who the original author is. We now have three choices again, but at least we ruled out two of the three that are mis-attributed all over the Internet!
"While I am unable to rule on whether someone officially holds copyright (you would need to contact the Copyright Office http://copyright.gov/ ), it is clear that this poem was published before 1923 putting it in the public domain. Again, it might depend which version you are using, but there seem to be plenty published before 1923.
"I hope this answers your question, but if you have additional ones, please write again.
English and American Literature
Main Reading Room
Humanities & Social Sciences Division
Library of Congress